Politics, Policies and Paradigms: Challenges of Change in Future Emergency Management

Senior fire and emergency services personnel have to manage many complex challenges and
these demands are going to increase in the future. Part of that complexity comes from a range of
interdependencies of social, technical and infrastructure systems. A core challenge for the emergency
management sector is that the number and intensity of adverse events is increasing, while factors driving
social and ecological vulnerabilities to those events are also changing. This places considerable tensions on
both emergency managers and other stakeholders and suggests a need to re-evaluate how stakeholders
may work together in the future. Part of the challenge lies in the existing arrangements and frameworks
guiding activities of emergency preparedness, response and recovery. Existing approaches in public policy
generally and emergency management in particular divide responsibilities into discrete areas, which can
then lead to silo mentalities and rivalries guarding authority and resources. In addition, there are problems
with a command and control culture that focuses on reacting and responding.
This paper presents findings from interviews with senior personnel about the future challenges they see
facing emergency management. These included a need to manage: increased uncertainty, complexity
and its associated converging pressures on those working in the domain; community expectations and
resilience; social media and networks; the political- operational nexus; measurement of emergency
management effectiveness; and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and policy disconnects, including need
for a strategic and longer term approach rather than reactive and short-term change. All of this places
new demands on leadership and capability. The presentation will report on the interview findings along
with suggested areas for change identified through consultation with industry personnel where these
challenges, strategic options, and proposed strategies for change were discussed.